How Faulty Data is Damaging our Industry
By Marc Zimmet
January 8, 2019
The Mars Climate Orbiter was a major space probe launched by NASA on December 11, 1998.
Anticipation of ground-breaking scientific achievement swelled as the probe flawlessly traversed
the vacuum of space during its 9.5 month, 415-million-mile journey to the Red Planet. Then came
the deafening silence of September 23, 1999 when communication with the spacecraft was lost
during “orbital insertion” and declared a “total loss” two days later.
The billion-dollar mission failed due to a simple data error: Ground-based computer software
produced accurate information regarding the probe’s planetary approach, but its measurements
were calibrated in units of “Pound-Force Seconds” while the probe processed International
Units of Newton-seconds (translation: Ground control used American measures, the probe
operated on the metric system).
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